As cases of the delta variant soar nationwide and worries about COVID-19 grow, some parents and students have expressed uneasiness about the lack of physical distancing at a suburban Berwyn high school.
Videos and pictures from inside Morton West High School show masked students in crowded hallways, cafeterias and classrooms.
Nadia Ortiz, whose daughter, Mylani Hernandez, attends the school, told NBC 5 the lack of distancing simply makes her scared.
Her daughter agrees.
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"We are supposed to be social distancing," she said. "Even though we have masks on, it may not help."
In-person classes started Aug. 16 for Hernandez, who is not vaccinated because of a medical condition, according to her mother. Ortiz said she worries about her daughter and other students, as well as teachers and staff, contracting COVID.
"The teachers are trying, but that is all they can do, along with us, trying to get the word out," she stated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, schools should maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students in an effort to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a distance of at least 3 feet, "it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as screening testing," according to the CDC's website.
In a statement, Tim Truesdale, the superintendent of J. Sterling Morton High School District 201 said, "...There are more than 3,500 students enrolled at Morton West who need to move from class to class....Our staff enforce universal masking and students not congregating in the halls."
Ortiz said she plans to bring the distancing issue up at the district's next board meeting as well as at the school's open house Thursday.
"I think there can be more that they can do. These kids need to be heard and something done."
The following statement from the school district's superintendent is below:
A majority of instructional spaces at Morton West have air conditioning. The school implements several additional strategies to address the heat in the building, including:
- Allowing and encouraging students to drink water throughout the day. Bottle fillers are available throughout the school.
- Teachers may sign up for alternate locations such as the courtyard and other outdoor spaces, and air conditioned spaces such as the library and other available locations.
Concerning hallways, we are implementing a full return to in-person instruction as schools have been directed to do. There are more than 3,500 students enrolled at Morton West who need to move from class to class. Passing periods necessitate students moving through the hallways. Our staff enforce universal masking and students not congregating in the halls. In addition, the school has implemented a number of strategies for health and safety, including:
- Everyone must continue to wear masks indoors
- Updated HVAC systems, including increased fresh air intake, upgraded filters where compatible with equipment, and running systems two hours prior and two hours after regular occupancy
- HEPA air purifiers for all classrooms, cafeterias, locker rooms and other spaces, as needed
- Hand sanitizer stations in entries, common spaces and classrooms
- Masks are available for students who need them
- Disinfectant spray solution for wiping surfaces in every classroom and in common spaces
- Disinfectant sprayers used daily throughout the school
- Signage throughout the schools to reinforce physical distancing, hand washing/sanitizing and face coverings
- Nearly 80,000 units of personal protective equipment (PPE masks, face shield visors, gloves, gowns, Plexiglas dividers) have been supplied during the pandemic